Samuel Taylor Coleridge, like many other artists and writers of his generation, used, and may have been addicted to, laudanum, a solution of opium. Quite possibly under its influence, Coleridge had fallen asleep and, while unconscious, had composed an entire poem in his mind. Upon waking, he began to write it down. The poem we have today is just one part. Coleridge was never able to complete the writing because he was—or so he claimed—interrupted during the process.
Coleridge explained when it was published, writing about himself in the third person. What he retained of the complete poem was merely a hazy memory of the “general purport of the vision….” He compares the dissolving of the rest of the poem to the ripples in water made by a skipped stone. The interruption from “a person on business from Porlock,” a town near the farm where he was staying, has come to stand for any excuse for not getting one’s work done. The person from Porlock is a frequently used literary allusion.